Free Dartmouth
3/04/2005 09:41:00 PM | Timothy

Dartmouth Trustees
How should I vote in upcoming Trustee election? This question popped into my head when I read Kalblog. John Kalb said that the two petition candidates
would represent a vote of no confidence for where the College has gone over the last several years.
That's what's at issue in this campaign. It's not about frats, or faculty, or grad students, or fundraising, or whatever else, but rather it's about whether people think the College is heading in the right direction.
If, like me, you believe that the current administration has been bad for the College, then your only choice is to vote for the two write-in candidates.
I'm confused. If I believe the college is not heading in the right direction, chances are it is because of one of these issues (or "whatever else") or perhaps a lot of them together. Presumably I have, or should have, reasons for believing the college is going in the wrong direction.

Also, that the college is going in the "wrong direction" is not a sufficient reason to vote for the outsiders. I can always look at the question of voting as who will take the college in the best, or sometimes the least worst, direction. I could be dissatisfied with the current administration, but still think that the preferred replacements will not be any better or will be worse. Logically, I could believe that the current administration had been bad for the college, and still choose (despite what Kalb says) to not vote for the outsiders. Plenty of French voters voted for Chirac over Le Pen, for example. A French voter on the left can easily think Chirac was taking France in the wrong direction and still vote for Chirac. (Lest anyone think I am comparing the petition candidates to Le Pen, need I point out that President Wright is not Chirac-- I am using the example to make a logical point that Kalb is wrong that I need have only one choice. At for me, I need a more substantive case that the alternative is better, or at least not as bad. Kalb did not give it. In fact, he just waves away all the substantive issues he could use to give a case. (Actually, he could also make a procedural case about democracy, but I don't see even a hint of that). Why would I believe that the college is headed in the wrong direction if I didn't believe it was fundamentally messing things up on certain issues? Don't people usually believe, or shouldn't they judge, whether an administration is heading in the right direction based on issues? (And I don't think 'wrong direction' won John Kerry the election.)

Here is what I am asking for: what is the case for the petition candidates? Why is the adminstration taking us in the wrong direction and how would the outsider candidates reverse it?

Now, I know a subscriber to the Dartmouth Review (and others) might answer that. The administration is not holding to the old time values and its traditional mission and institutions. When I hear "wrong direction" I hear echoes of the same claim the Review has made against Dartmouth from its inception. As someone who supports not having the Indian symbol as its mascot, co-education, etc., I don't have much patience for some types of alum nostalgia.

Most defenses of the 'establishment' candidates I have seen go something along these lines: No, the adminstration is not attacking the Greek system, and Athletics are doing fine. Sometimes this gets silly when it is pretended that simply because President Wright says something, it must be the case. Of course, rhetoric does matter and gives important clues, but it is not always conclusive. (Insert your own election analogy here).

More importantly from my perspective, I wish the Wright was willing to change the Greek system 'as we know it'. I think the administration is heading is the wrong direction by pulling back. Why should I vote for the outsiders?

But I suspect that many liberal alums do not have such negative opinions on the single-sex Greek system as a whole. Why should liberal alums vote for the outsiders? I am not asking this rhetorically.

Also, thelittlegreenblog (visit them, they are little, and want visitors!) says that the petition candidates are
covering up their ambitions to make Dartmouth a conservative and backwards institution.
I'll leave aside the 'backwards' remark. Are the petition candidates going to make the school more conservative if they succeed? If so, do they have qualities that a liberal would still like that outweigh such political differences? For example, some people say an honest person who is not beholden to the system is more important than one who agrees ideologically with you. Of course, since I was just in New Orleans, I have to remember how a lot of people voted for Edwin Edwards rather than David Duke. They said: "I'm voting for the crook, it's important." (And no, I don't think this is important like that, but neither do I have any reason to think the establishement candidates are crooks).

So what is the case for the outsider candidates if not issues? And what, if anything, can be said to the young liberal alum? (If anyone is interested in responding...)

Update: Here is the website for Alumni for a Strong Dartmouth. I haven't looked at it yet, but my impression is that it is the 'defend the establishment and attack the outsider candidates' website.

Geoffry Berlin '84 wrote a pro-establishment column in the D (via little green blog).

Chien Wen of The Dartmouth Observer did not seem to like this anti-outsider email circulated by the Dartmouth Asian Pacific American Alumni Association.

Dartlog probably has the most extensive coverage of the trustee elections (dartlog is a weblog run by The Dartmouth Review). See this post on electioneering. Also look at the comments section. It is really hard to argue that the D is engaged in electioneering, while at the same time maintaining that dartlog is not. Choose whether you think both or neither have engaged in violations, I don't care. But one comment: someone this thread seems to assume that electioneering rules from Dartmouth, must actually make sense. I remember at one time that for student assembly elections, you could be punished for what your supporters do. Does this make sense? Perhaps you could say it does, because it stops zealous supporters. But whether it makes sense is irrelevent to whether it is a rule. Lots of rules do not make sense, on balance. Mr. Ward of Dartlog also links to this D article and community letter by Wright. Scroll down, dartlog has lots more, including a link to the bios of the six candidates, more on 'electioneering' here, here, here.

P.S. I am waiting until I am quoted out of context. These are just some musings.

Another Update: John Kalb responds here.

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